Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ménégoz on Sacrifice in Hebrews

The following are my notes on Ménégoz's analysis of the theology of sacrifice in Hebrews.

Ménégoz, Eugène. "Le Sacrifice." Pages 102-27 in La théologie de l’Épître aux Hébreux. Paris: Fischbacher, 1894.


[102] The goal of the incarnation of the Son was the sacrifice of his life offered for the remission of sins. The will of God is not the observation of the moral law, but the abasement in the humanity and offering of his body in sacrifice (10:10).
[103] The doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ is the main subject (8:1).
[/104] The author seeks to affirm the religious faith and fidelity of his readers and showing them the superiority of the sacrifice of Christ over the Levitical sacrifices.  Everything is superior in the Christian cult: the priest, victim, sanctuary, and the results of the sacrifice.
-the notion of sacrifice of Hebrews is the same as that of the Jews.  The author is working with the same presuppositions as his readers.
-“Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission” (9:22) is an axiom for him.
-He does not discuss the necessity of sacrifices.
[105] He produces an argument drawn from civil law. A testament is valid only upon the death of the testator; Christ must die so that we can enter into possession of the inheritance (9:15-17).
-The author plays on the double sense of diatheke, which means testament or covenant.
[107] The author recalls the sacrifices offered by Moses at Sinai and he shows that the law needed the sprinkling of blood for the remission of transgressions (9:18-22)
[108] The new covenant must be inaugurated with blood.  In the new covenant the sacrificer is Christ.  He must receive his vocation from God (5:4-6).
[109] The type of Melch plays a great role in the argument of the author.  Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi (7:14), which alone offered the sacrifices
-Ps 110:4, a messianic psalm - the order of Melch, the order of Christ, is superior to Levi.
[110] Author interprets Gen 14:17-20: Melch=King of justice; King of Salem=King of peace.  He is without father, mother, ancestors, without beginning of days or end of life; he is assimilated to the Son (7:2-3).
[111] The author shows the superiority of Christ (7:4-10).
-The word of Psalm 110 reveals the rest: Jewish priesthood was transitory, proving its weakness and insufficiency (7:11, 15-16).
[112] Sacrifice must take place outside the camp (13:10-12).
-As for the blood, Jesus carried it into the true tabernacle, of which the Jewish sanctuary was only a copy, into heaven in the presence of God himself (9:11, 24; 8:1-2).
[113] Other proofs for the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood: he became a priest according to an oath (7:20-22).  His priesthood is singular and immutable (7:23-24).  Jesus does not need to offer sacrifices for his own sins (7:26).  He does not need to renew his sacrifice which is offered once for all (7:27; 9:12; 10:2, 10, 12, 14).
[114] The Levitical priests are full of weakness; the Son is made perfect forever (7:28).
-The chief difference is that the Levitical priests offer animal sacrifices while Christ offered himself (7:27). The absolute superiority and the inestimable price of the victim gives to the sacrifice of the new covenant its unique value (9:12-14; 10:4-10)
[/116] The author tries to show that Jesus is the perfect realization of the divine thought, symbolically hidden under “the image and shadow” of the Levitical cult (8:5; 10:1).
-Contrast of the high priests: mortal vs. eternal; sinner vs. perfect; simple man vs. Son of God
-Contrast of the sacrifice: animal vs. celestial being; victim is without fault or spot vs. Christ who is pure, innocent, perfect holiness.
-High priest enters holy of holies once annually vs. Jesus entered once for all.
-Whole burnt offering burned outside the camp; Jesus was sacrificed outside the city.
-High priest traversed the veil; Jesus traversed the veil, his own flesh, torn by death.
[117] The high priest enters into an earthly sanctuary; Jesus entered into a heavenly one.
-High priest offered to God, symbolically the blood; Jesus offered his own blood.

What is the religious and theological significance of the death of Christ?
-His premises are those of contemporary Judaism; he grounds his notion of sacrifice on the OT.
-Sacrifice in the OT is an offering made to God to gain his favor.
[/118] High priest is charged to offer gifts and sacrifices (5:1; 8:3; 9:9).
-The intention of the gifts is to make God agreeable and to gain his good graces. The remission of sins is obtained by this means.
-The author assimilates the sacrifice of Christ to the Levitical sacrifices. Christ’s death is likened to the sacrifices made in the temple (8:3).  The difference between the two sacrifices is not in the idea of sacrifice but in the respective value of the victims.
[119] Some scholars mistakenly see a substitutionary sacrifice in Hebrews.
-The ceremony of the scapegoat was not a sacrifice, but a symbolic act.  Having charged the goat with the sins of the people, it was not offered to God but released into the wilderness.  One offers to God only pure and spotless victims.
-In OT the sinner does not expiate his sin with animal sacrifice, and God does not take leave of the punishment because he approves of the substitutionary punishment of the victim.  The victim does not expiate the crime in place of the criminal.  Such an idea is absent in the Law and Prophets.
[/120] According to Leviticus, it is the sinner who expiates his fault by sacrificing to God a precious object.  In this sense Jesus has offered to God what is most precious, his life.  One can call this an expiatory sacrifice, but not a substitutionary one.
-The excellence of the sacrifice of Christ is manifest also in its scope: Jewish sacrifices only make cleansing of the flesh; the blood of Christ gives remission of sins. Cf. 10:4; 9:13; 9:9-10.
[122] The author supports this thesis on the fact of the repetition of sacrifices (10:1-3, 11).
[123] The sacrifice of Christ remits sins, purifies the conscience, gives access to God.
[124] In 12:18-24 the author makes a parallel between the old and new covenants.
[125] The author assimilates Jesus to the high priest; the high priest only functions in the name of the people of Israel.  The author does not consider Christ as representing humanity entirely.
-Hebrews also assimilates Christ to Melch. He gives Christ a greater sphere of action; it can be extended to the pagan world. This universal application also applies to the sacrifice of Christ.  Jesus died to purify the people (13:12).
[126] The death of Christ has universal expiatory value (2:9; 5:9; 9:28).  Included are the faithful since the creation of the world (9:26). Christ’s death is retroactive to cross the centuries.  The Jewish sacrifices cannot efface sin; it is the blood of Christ which effaces them.
-The author founds this idea of retroactivity on the fact that Christ only suffered once and offered to God a sacrifice of absolute value.  If his sacrifice had only a temporary value, he would be obligated to die many times as the efficacy of his sacrifice would embrace periods, just as the high priest is obligated to renew annually his sacrifice, whose effect was limited to the duration of one year (9:25-28).
[127] Christ died for all people and not only for his people.  His sacrifice is valuable for all time for all people.

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